Whale Watching in the South Pacific

Whales are among the largest mammals on earth, and the warm Pacific waters of Tonga and Niue are two of only three places in the world where you can actually swim with these majestic creatures. If you’re searching for a Pacific holiday with a difference, a whalewatching adventure could be just the answer.


Whale watching is a relatively new industry to Tonga and is raising awareness of whale conservation in a community that once used to hunt them. The whales arrive yearly to mate and calve in the warm waters around Vava’u. It’s mainly the South Pacific Humpback whales that head this way, but you may also catch sight of killer whales, spinner and bottlenose dolphins. The humpbacks can get up to 14.5m long and weigh up to 40 tonnes, with 5m long flippers. The complex and repetitive song they sing is thought to be part of their mating ritual.

Whales head up to Tonga at the end of May and the best time for watching them is between July and October. The migratory path of the whales is just 30 minutes from the Port of Refuge and there are several companies that will take you up close to observe the whales playing and breaching the surface of the water.

Strict guidelines ensure the protection of the whales and while you can’t scuba dive around them, you can swim or snorkel within 30m. Even from this distance, you can see them glide through the water and hear their haunting songs, which travel for miles through the warm ocean. The humpback whales put on quite a show with acrobatic displays as they slap their heads and flippers on the water, lob their tales and breach. Coming so close to a mother and her calf is a truly amazing experience.

If getting this close sounds a little too daring, there are plenty of land vantage points that will still provide a fascinating experience. The raised limestone cliffs from the Toafa Lookout on west Vava’u are great for whalewatching, and you can also head to ‘Eua Island (south of Tongatapu) or to the Ha’apai group.


There's no need to go chasing whales in the open ocean - in the warm offshore waters of the tiny raised atoll, whale sightings are almost guaranteed. Both pods and individual whales shelter in the bays around Avatele and Tamakautoga. The crystal clear waters are very deep, so you don’t need to go far to see these stunning creatures.

Whales head to Nuie's warm waters to breed between June and November, and can be viewed from anywhere on the southwest coast. Boat operators can get you even closer and if you’re really brave, Niue Dive can take you underwater for an extreme close-up view. Diving in the world’s largest coral atoll is an amazing experience as the water is warm and visibility can be up to 50m. Dolphins also frequent these waters, and are considered safer to swim with.

Remember that Sunday in Niue is a strictly observed religious day, so all jobs and activities will cease.

Useful Websites:

Tonga Visitors Bureau
PO Box 37

Niue Tourism
PO Box 42

Whalewatch Operators Niue
Niue Dive

Dolphin Pacific Diving

Whalewatch Vavau